Dear President-Elect Rouhani: Can we PLEASE Give this Poor Young Man a Break?

July 19, 2013

Imprisoned student activist Arash
Imprisoned student activist Arash  Sadeghied (Photo Credit: HRA-news).
Imprisoned student activist Arash
Sadeghi (Photo Credit: HRA-news).

Dear President-Elect Rouhani:

I am writing to you to ask you to stop the astounding brutalization heaped upon a young man who has had to pay a horrible price for his mere participation in peaceful political activism.

I welcome your recent statements that indicate your desire to usher in reforms that would lead to greater freedoms and rights for the Iranian people. That is why I hope that you will be able to bring Arash Sadeghi’s years-long ordeal to an end.

Arash Sadeghi is just 26-years-old. He had been studying philosophy at Allameh Tabatabai University until he was banned from continuing his education because of his political activism. A supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi who was running as a reformist candidate in the 2009 presidential elections, he had been arrested a number of times for participating in demonstrations protesting the outcome of the 2009 election.

He has been held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s notorious Section 209 since his most recent arrest on January 15, 2012.

He has been subjected to mind-boggling torture during a previous detention: hung from the ceiling by one leg, he was beaten so savagely that his shoulder was dislocated and his teeth broken. During another beating, his eardrum was torn. During yet another beating, he was blindfolded and kicked and punched in the face, causing bleeding and damage to his eyes and consequent vision problems.

His tormentors wanted him to confess on camera to connections to the banned People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, and threatened him with charges of Moharebeh (enmity against God) which could result in a death sentence.

To compound his misery, when security forces sought his arrest in November 2010, they broke a window and entered in his home looking for him. He was not there at the time, but his mother suffered a heart attack during the break-in and died shortly later. As can be easily imagined, he is said to have suffered severe depression because of his mother’s death.

Arash Sadeghi began a hunger strike on June 1 to protest against his ill-treatment. He has been held without charge, has had no access to a lawyer, and has been allowed just two family visits – with his grandfather – during a year and a half of detention. His father’s repeated requests to obtain information about his condition have only resulted in further harassment and intimidation of the family and warnings against speaking to the media about Mr. Sadeghi’s situation.

Concerned activists have carried out a “twitter storm” to express their concern for Mr. Sadeghi’s condition and to call for his release.

President-Elect Rouhani, I urge you to consider the matter of this young man – what exactly has he done to deserve the savage beatings that have resulted in grave injuries; the death of his mother; prolonged detention in solitary confinement; nebulous yet serious charges hanging over his head; and the prohibition on continuing his education?

Arash Sadeghi is one person; though his plight is extreme and heart-wrenching, large numbers of other prisoners of conscience suffer in horrendous conditions in Iranian prisons, where they do not receive proper medical care. Hundreds of students have been assigned “stars” by the Iranian Ministry of Science, Technology and Research, together with the Ministry of Intelligence and are thereby excluded from participation in higher education solely because of their political activities or beliefs or their assumed political beliefs.

President-Elect Rouhani, your words have inspired some cautious hope for an improvement of Iran’s deplorable human rights record. Please look at the case of Arash Sadeghi – it exemplifies how an innocuous young person simply exercising his basic rights can be utterly crushed by the repressive machinery of Iran’s security apparatus.

You have begun to paint a vision of a different Iran; I urge you to start making this vision a reality by doing whatever you can to ensure that Arash Sadeghi is released from detention and permitted to continue his education. Thank you.